There’s a strategy they use in therapy when someone has a lot of negative self-talk or excuses. I don’t know if what the clinical term for it is, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s call it The Yes, But Strategy.
In The Yes, But Strategy, therapists’ clients are encouraged to combat negative self-talk (“I might fail,” “I am a burden,” “it’s all or nothing”) with something positive and real. A mantra of sorts.
If you are an entrepreneur and your negative feeling is “the other shoe has to drop sometime,” your Yes, But might be:
“Yes, but I have a financial buffer in place.”
Or “Yes, but I’m smart enough to get things back on track if they go off the rails.”
Or, in my case, something cheeky like “Yes, but I’m smarter than the damn shoe.”
It’s a brilliant strategy precisely because it’s so simple. You’re forced to look your deepest fears in the face and give them a reality check. And that reality check so often chops them off at the legs.
And what if we applied this strategy for those pesky fears about living our wildest dreams? What if we subjected those fears to the Yes, But microscope?
I think this is a little of what we’d find:
I would start my business, but the economy is down right now.
Yes, but there are opportunities in a down economy too.
Reality check: Freelancers in the down economy take advantage of mid-sized and small business who are too nervous to hire a full-time designer, developer, writer, etc., but do need a little professional help. As a result, those freelancers are thriving.
I would travel the world, but [insert something bad—like getting pick-pocketed or dying in a plane crash—here] might happen.
Yes, but it’s more likely that I’ll live my dream and change my life.
Reality check: The world is safer than you think. In fact, in places like Europe and the islands, assault and gun violence are lower than you think. Lower, in many cases, than the US.
I would quit my job and start a business, but most businesses fail in their first two years.
Yes, but, in the words of the Gilmore Girls: “And if we fail in the first two years, they’ll be the best two years of our lives.”
Reality check: The landscape of business is changing. You no longer need huge overheads, office space, and a secretary for many businesses. In fact, there are thousands of people running businesses out of their own homes or even on the road. There’s less risk and more reward than ever before.
I would travel solo, but I’m afraid I’ll be lonely.
Yes, but being alone isn’t the same as being lonely.
Reality check: Solo travelers actually often make more friends on the road. They’re more approachable. They’re forced to get out of their comfort zone. And they seek out friendships. Plus, it’s kind of nice to have a little alone time in between the new friendships.
I would live my dreams, but I might fail.
Yes, but, then you’ll learn from that failure and try again.
Reality check: Failing at something and being a failure are two different things. And the sum of a thousand failures isn’t necessarily a life of failure. In fact, people who are willing to fail are also more likely to succeed. You can’t live your dreams if you are standing still.
(And just look at J.K. Rowling, whose books were turned down by multiple publishing houses. She’s now a bajillionaire or something.)
So…what’s your excuse?
It’s time to be honest with ourselves and lay those excuses, those fears, that negative self-talk out on the table—and give it the Yes, But reality check it deserves. And maybe, just maybe, then we can step forward off the edge and into the lives of our dreams.